Once every 10 years the conservation community and global leaders convene at the IUCN World Parks Congress. Here they discuss the current state of the natural environment, the role that protected areas play in safeguarding its future and the progress that has been made in the last 10 years. This week I am lucky enough to have travelled with colleagues from ZSL and UCL to this decade’s event which is taking place in Sydney, Australia.
But why are we here? Why is it worth us travelling to the other side of the world for this event? The congress will be attended by over 5,000 delegates from all corners of the globe, an excellent audience to showcase some of our work to, such as Instant Wild, SMART and our research in the Chagos Marine Reserve. But more importantly, it gives us the chance to learn from others, forge new partnerships and create original approaches for conservation and development back in our own countries.
Today we attended the opening ceremony at Sydney Olympic Park where we were given a traditional welcome from the aboriginal communities of the area, the ancestral owners of the surrounding lands. Their elaborate dances and emotive music marked the official opening of the congress and also brought home one of the key messages: local people have to be integral to any conservation action we choose to take now and in the future. The opening ceremony also included announcements that Australia will ban dumping and minimise dredging in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and that Gabon is to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) covering 23% of its territorial waters. A great start indeed! Let’s hope for more similar pledges over the coming week.
During the next 8 days we will be chewing the cud on all things related to conservation and protected areas. ZSL and UCL are presenting a number of talks over the course of the congress and I will be blogging every couple of days about the event. I will also be tweeting regularly from the conference, so for live updates follow me at @d_curnick, @ZSLConservation or follow the congress at #WorldParksCongress.
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